Surprise them with praise

Here's Lucas the first time he tried riding a bike (almost two years ago).

Here’s a great quote to remember:

“Surprise your kids with praise,” (On Becoming Childwise, p.204).

I have discussed the power of encouragement and how much it can affect our kids. There are certainly times when our kids expect our praise and they even seek it from us at times. My kids love to come to me with stories of their good behavior and hear the praise that I give them.

But I have found that the praise that I offer at unexpected times has an even greater effect than the praise they know is coming.

“We have found that the most effective praise is that which comes when the child is not expecting it,” (On Becoming Childwise,┬áp.204).

I have a story that illustrates the power of surprising kids with praise. We have been trying to get Lucas to ride his bike for quite a while. William was riding without training wheels months before the age Lucas is now. Well, Lucas is a sporty kid, but he’d much rather play soccer or baseball than ride a bike. That’s all well and good, but he needs to learn how to ride a bike. We went for a walk this morning, and I wanted to walk fast to get some exercise. My husband and William rode their bikes. Lucas had to ride in the stroller. He wanted to ride his bike, but I said he needs to practice more. He can run faster than he can ride.

So this afternoon, we went out again (for a slow walk) and Lucas rode his bike. He had the motivation, but there were times when he was ready to give up. First, he couldn’t get the brakes right, so he walked the bike down a hill. Then he was ready to give up as we crossed some gravel. I quickly discovered that a little praise was all he needed! I praised and encouraged him the entire way, and he ended up mastering the brakes, riding up a pretty big hill, and standing on the pedals while riding! I am still so proud of him. He was so focused on riding the bike that at no point was he paying attention to me or expecting any bit of praise, so every word I said had great power.

The next time he starts to get a little discouraged by a difficult task (bike riding, homework, whatever), I’ll know that a little bit of unexpected praise will go a long way!



  1. I know this isn’t exactly what you were talking about in this post, but I just wanted to share that I surprise my daughter with praise when she treats her sister kindly or behaves well in public. It is just really awesome to see how she reacts.

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